The sense of excitement – as well as ambivalence, compulsion and disappointment – is likely to be shared by many academics in (dis)engaging with social media. Many of us have struggled with 140 character tweets, multi-tasking a conference presence onsite as well as online, feeling a sense of success (or failure), through retweets, and nonetheless still committing to fill another space. Our fingers are poised to disseminate, to get ‘out there’, to be ‘public’.
In my previous role, directing a research centre I found myself always on twitter, sending information before, during, after centre events: linking to centre blogs, newsletter, staff profiles, publications, current issues, and generally being present everywhere and all of the time. And with a hashtag. This compelled, and often compelling, presence is something I still do, and try to manage, to check-in to see if what I’m doing is effective or exhausting and if I’m talking to others or simply repeating to myself and those already ‘networked’.
These issues of hidden labour, of the love of that labour, of (in)visibile productions and (self)referencing are not new nor are they newly created by social media usage. The question of ‘who are my communities’, ‘who am I in dialogue with’, and ‘who could or should I be in dialogue with’ are not necessarily answered by an ever-increasing number of followers, and academic recognition and reciprocity do not necessarily mean ‘following’, or indeed, ‘unfollowing’ uncritically. With thousands of followers we don’t necessarily extend our presence and I feel this is something early career academics in particular could be guided through in their no doubt ever-increasing subscriptions, feeds, followers and tweets (and those not-so-early-career-anymore can also be reminded of this). This seems a real opportunity for the International Writing With Impact Network (I-WIN), explicitly orientating as feminist in academia and attending to impact through interrogating what writing gets done, where and for whom? What knowledges, presences and labours get (re)produced? What is done in these circulations? (see http://socialtheoryapplied.com/2016/05/06/occupying-academia-stretching-meaning-career/) How can these questions be productive rather than stall or stop us in our on-off-line presences?
I am encouraging of early – and established – career colleagues to ‘be’ on twitter. There are many useful guides on how to be effective on using twitter in research, such as that created by LSE (http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/files/2011/11/Published-Twitter_Guide_Sept_2011.pdf). But I’m also encouraging of colleagues to come off twitter too; to be mindful at the conference of time spent at the screen, as opposed to time spent face-to-face with colleagues, having got this balance wrong myself. We’ve seen lots of emerging debates on the ‘fastness’ of academia, and a call to go ‘slow’ as resistance; this has been resisted itself by calls from academics who can’t afford to slow down, who are not ‘getting on’ or ‘keeping up’ in the cycle of (im)permanence and (non)promotion. I now try to put a time around my own online activity, I do enjoy a browse early in the morning, and I ‘like’ features, journal articles, funding calls etc., that I might later want to share or follow-up on, while realising that often this information does of course sit in other sites too. In the forthcoming Education Futures and Fractures Conference, held at the University of Strathclyde (see: http://www.strath.ac.uk/humanities/ schoolofeducation/newsevents/ educationalfuturesandfractures/), I likely will live tweet #EdFutures_Strath but I will hope and expect that colleagues support – and interrupt – this and encourage me online and offline. We could all do this for each other.
Yvette Taylor is Professor of Education, University of Strathclyde and was previously (2011-2015) Head of the Weeks Centre for Social and Policy Research, London South Bank University. She has obtained a wide variety of funding, including ESRC projects ‘From the Coal Face to the Car Park? Gender and Class in the North East of England’ (2007-2009), ‘Making Space for Queer Identifying Religious Youth’ (2011-2013) and British Academy mid-career fellowship ‘Critical Terrain: Dividing Lines and Lives’ (2013-2014). Yvette has published four sole-authored books based on funded research: Working-class Lesbian Life (2007); Lesbian and Gay Parenting (2009); Fitting Into Place? Class and Gender Geographies and Temporalities (2012) and Making Space for Queer Identifying Religious Youth (2015). Edited titles include Educational Diversity: the subject of difference and different subjects (2012); The Entrepreneurial University. Public Engagements, Intersecting Impacts (2014). Yvette edits the Palgrave Gender and Education Series and co-edits the Routledge Advances in Critical Diversities Series.